The number one rule of triathlon and any endurance sport is consistency. It is simply the undisputed champ of training "rules". There for any tool, methodology, gadget, class, or theory that helps you attain consistency is worth investigating and probably employing.
Joe Friel, the creator of TrainingPeaks (TP) and author of many go-to triathlon and endurance training books is a seriously clever coach. His TrainingPeaks software is without comparison in the market. The potential downside is that many athletes get a little lost in the mix of acronyms, formula and complicated graphs and loose sight of its true value.
Many athletes use TP and believe the numbers are 'real'. Although lots of science and research has gone into the formula's Joe uses, it is worth keeping in mind that many other coaches and scientists have come up with different numbers and different formulas and they all produce different results. The difference is that Joe's numbers and assumptions have been put into an easy to use and access software. The result is that the numbers produced are seen as an exact science.
TrainingPeaks at its core is based on many assumptions. Assumptions are not science. Some of those assumptions are built into the software and some of the assumptions are entered by the athlete or coach. Both sets of assumptions need to be understood and the effect they have on the numbers produced needs to be recognised.
One of the biggest culprits is the number for Fitness or CTL. Talk to any Pro athlete or coach and they will tell you trying to increase this number for the sake of it is useless, especially nearing a race when you want this number or your fitness to be as high as possible. Joe himself has said this number is guide and not to be relied upon. Yet so many age-group athletes especially those self coaching will tray to increase this number for the sake of it and are then numbfounded when they race poorly.
TrainingPeaks is a tool that at its very core is all about attaining consistency. However, it is a very sophisticated and subsequently complicated piece of software. So it is worthwhile keeping in mind its true value and that remains to assist you to achieve consistency.
The list below is a simple list of key components to using Training Peaks with your coach.
1. Use it!
Log as much as you can as often as you can.
2. Complete the setup
Spend the time to go through all the settings and profile setup areas and complete as much as you can. Ensure the time zones are correct, birth dates, weight, etc are completed. All these details are used in various formulas in the software.
If you know your threshold values, great. Load them in and use the percent of threshold and Joe Friels calc to determine your zones. If you don’t know your thresholds discuss with your coach to complete.
3. Use the App
It is much easier to log training or review your planned sessions if you have the App on your phone.
4. Add the TrainingPeaks calendar to your calendar
In the settings you can copy the calendar URL into your personal calendar system. This is really useful to follow these instructions and set this up correctly. Having the sessions automatically sync to your calendar will prove very helpful in planning and completing your sessions (and identifying conflicts early). Once again this is all about consistency.
This lets you and your coach work better together. If you know you have a work function on Thursday night and your kids sport on Sunday morning then put it in your TP calender in advance so your coach can plan around these events.
Likewise try and plan your week in advance. If you are lucky enough to have access to an awesome training facility like Seac Studio then you should book your sessions for the week in advance. This lets your coach know when and where you are training and who with. Your coach can then ensure the sessions are planned accordingly.
5. Leave Post-Activity Comments
Comments such as how your felt, where you may have struggled and split or repeat times are very useful to your coach and to yourself …in a years’ time when you are looking back at why this season is going so well.
6. Enter real information
Complete as much actual information as possible about completed workouts. Try to enter detailed information. If you are manually entering completed information you should enter duration as 56:48 and don’t round to 1:00:00.
7. Spend the time and effort to synchronise your watch to
You have paid the money for the fancy watch. Now use it for more than coloured pictures while you run. Having the heart rate information load into the completed session allows TrainingPeaks to calculate a very good guess at the fatigue (TSS) generated by the session.
Over time having historical record of heart rate and pace will allow you to better prepare for your next event.
8. Use the metrics
A key component of being able to train well and push your body is staying in tune with your body.
The best way to stay tuned into your body is to take 2-3minutes every day and really listen. TrainingPeaks has a great tool to help - "metrics".
Use the plus (+) button the same as if you were adding a workout and choose the Metrics option. Add as much information as you can. Sleep and sleep quality as well as sickness, injury and overall feeling I feel are important to keep a watch on. This is great for you coach to have access to as needed.
Over time you will start to learn or see the signs when its time to rest or push on. You don't need to do this every day, however a few times a week is worth the effort when you are well. If you are sick or injured it is worth noting your Metrics daily or even twice daily. It is a great way to share this info with your coach!
In future blog posts I will look closer at some of the more useful features of TrainingPeaks. For now your best option is Rule 1: Use it!